School reforms abound today, yet even the boldest and most imaginative among them have produced—at best—marginal gains in student achievement. What America needs in the twenty-first century is a far more profound version of education reform. Instead of shoveling yet more policies, programs, and practices into our current system, we must deepen our understanding of the obstacles to progress that are posed by existing structures, governance arrangements, and power relationships. Yet few education reformers—or public officials—have been willing to delve into this touchy territory.
The Center for American Progress and the The Thomas B. Fordham Institute have teamed up to tackle these tough issues and ask how our mostly nineteenth-century system of K-12 governance might be modernized and made more receptive to the innumerable changes that have occurred—and need to occur—in the education realm. We have commissioned fifteen first-rate analysts to probe the structural impediments to school reform and to offer provocative alternatives.
Join us for an all-day conference on December 1, 2011 as these distinguished scholars—joined by a cast of forward-thinking discussants—present their draft papers and probe the implications for governance reform. For the full conference schedule, author bios, and an introduction to Fordham’s and CAP’s overall work plan in this realm visit our website.
Session I: Challenges
What governance challenges currently mire efforts to reform education? This panel will tackle the financial systems and governance structures that impede change, drawing on the examples of innovators, both within and without the system, whose reforms have been stifled or slowed by our curious current structures and policies. It will also explain how our present system has harmed our nation’s most disadvantaged youth. Panelists include Cynthia Brown, Michelle Davis, Marguerite Roza, and Steven F. Wilson.
Moderator: Patrick McGuinn, Associate Professor, Drew University
Session II: Traditional Institutions in Flux
This panel calls into question the ideal of local control. Its panelists—Jeffrey Henig, Frederick M. Hess, Kathryn McDermott, and Kenneth Wong—will investigate the rise of mayoral control, the growth of interstate collaboration, and the role of the state and federal governments in education. Discussant Margaret Goertz will prod panelists to explain these shifts—and what they think each means for education in the twenty-first century.
Moderator: Michael J. Petrilli, Executive Vice President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
During this lunchtime lecture, New Jersey Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf will discuss his thoughts on how to improve our current education-governance structures, drawing from his experiences as deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, his current role at the New Jersey Department of Education, and his time working for the federal government.
Session III: Alternative Approaches
Many lessons on effective governance arrangements can be pulled from other sectors—and other nations. During this panel, authors Michael Mintrom, Barry Rabe, and Richard Walley will explain what insights can (and can’t) be drawn from other countries—and from other federal initiatives, like healthcare and environmental policy.
Moderator: Paul Manna, Associate Professor, College of William and Mary
Session IV: The Way Forward
What’s next? This panel brings together a group of "big thinkers" to hash out a plan for education governance in the twenty-first century. What should the structure look like? Who should helm the ship? And how can we change these thoughts into action? Paul Hill, Kenneth Meier, Jon Schnur, and Eric Smith will engage in a roundtable discussion to think through these questions.
Moderator: Chester E. Finn, Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute